the surprise was foiled but the party was still on

This is a very very belated post that I promised you about four months ago….I kept thinking that I would find the good pictures but I never did so sorry about the poor quality…I’m thinking I must have picked up someone else’s phone and taken pictures with it. If that’s you, I’m sorry…


Husband loves beer. He doesn’t love beer in that he sits half-naked with a case of bud light in a lawn chair on the front porch. He loves beer in that he goes to beer festivals and gets fancy sampler things and sits and sips and thinks and rates them. So when planning his birthday party this year (which was in June…yes, I’m a little behind), having a theme was a no-brainer. Hosting our own beer tasting would be the perfect way to get all of his favorite things under one roof: good friends, good beer, good food, and cake. I thought it would be even better to make this a surprise party so I conspired to send him golfing that day and then would come home to a party. Except that his one birthday request was to not leave the house. Drat. So in a moment of frustration, I spilled the beans. The surprise part was foiled but the party was still on and I think it worked out better this way since Husband got to help plan the menu.


I asked each guest to bring their favorite craft brew. I thought this would net us just the right amount of variety and quantity. Turns out, everyone was very excited about this and each person brought several varieties. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much beer in one place in my entire life. Husband said that it was just the right amount. Shockingly, the entire party stayed classy, pinata time included. I was incredibly impressed. Tonto was the only one who ruined anything when she ate the logs for the bonfire (therefore the s’mores didn’t happen) and an entire bag of M&Ms. That dog has a stomach of steel. It didn’t even phase her.


I set up a beer tasting station and make ratings cards and voting slips so that we could determine the favorite brew (winner got to take home the extras). I didn’t do so well on the taking of pictures once the party got started but thankfully I had the foresight to do a little pre-emptive photography. The empty bins in the picture are plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store that I covered in burlap. I filled the bottom of each one with ice and voila: instant cooler. One bottle of each kind went in the bins and the rest went in the fridge and was replaced as needed.


I’ll be more than happy to share any of the products I made for the party but am not technologically savvy enough to put them on the internet. Leave a comment below and I’ll happily e-mail you the files. It’s not about being stingy, it’s about living the stone-age.

For decorations, I found some beer-themed imagery on the internet and pinned them up around the house. Things like “the history of beer” and flavor charts and party rules for help in rating. There were custom mustache coasters, too! I also made some banners out of cardstock and hung them around the house.


The food was my favorite part: build-your-own mini burger bar, baked potato salad, a variety of other things that go on a grill and a ton of other stuff I can’t remember right now since the party was 4 months ago. In order to adequately taste beer, you need fancy cheeses and pretzels. I really don’t know why but I’ve never been to a beer tasting without them, so we had those too. I found a recipe for making your own pretzels so we had them hot and straight out of the oven and served in french fry cones with newsprint liners. (Which I bought at World Market but they no longer carry. You can get the same things here and here) Here is the recipe for the pretzels which were fantastic.


hot buttered pretzels
from the budget-savy diva
4 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp table salt
2 tsp melted butter
1 tsp oil
1 C powdered sugar
one packet of active dry yeast + water as directed on package

2 C warm water
2 Tbsp baking soda

1. Prepare yeast according to package directions.
2. Add oil to the yeast and stir
3. Mix flour, powdered sugar, salt and butter in a separate bowl and add yeast mixture.
4. Knead dough for about 10 minutes. Or if you’re me, just put it in your Kitchen Aid with the dough hook attachment, turn it on, and go drink some coffee while it does the work for you.
5. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm place where it won’t be disturbed for about an hour or until doubled in size. When doing yeast dough, I warm up my oven while I’m preparing the dough, then turn it off and place the dough inside and close the door. Then it stays warm and no dogs, ducks, or husbands try to eat it.
6. When dough has risen, proceed to the following steps:
7. Preheat oven to 400
8. Dissolve baking soda in warm water. Divide dough into sections and roll into ropes. I was making pretzel sticks so I was able to get a lot from one batch of dough. Mine were about 6″ long and 1/2″ thick.
9. Dip dough into baking soda wash and then place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Parchment paper is actually important for this – your cookie sheet will never be the same otherwise and your pretzels won’t be as crispy and delicious.
10. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Top with melted butter and kosher salt.
11. Yum!

Gifts were the next best part. I ordered this make-your-own-beer-kit for Husband along with a beer journal and some bar ware. That kit was like the gift that keeps on giving: Husband loves it and has been making beer non-stop and has become even more of a connoisseur. I highly recommend this gift for any Husband. But beware, he’ll start asking for space in your pantry to keep his things. And then he’ll want you to develop recipes to pair with his new beer and will ask you to write blog posts about his new hobby.


Happy Birthday, Husband!


3 thoughts on “the surprise was foiled but the party was still on

  1. I am hosting a surprise beer tasting party for my boy friends 30th birthday. I love your ideas. Would you be willing to send me your files?

    • I’d love to!! Unfortunately that computer died along with all of my files. I think I still have hard copies of things like ratings sheets and I’ll scan and email them to you tonight. Good luck with your party! My husband said it was his favorite of all time

  2. Pingback: come one, drink all | always an adventure

I love comments. Did you also threaten to burn down your kitchen? Do you know how to get dogs (or ducks) to stop digging holes? Please tell me about it.

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